Optimising old blog content for new visitors

If you’re neglecting your old blog posts then you’re going to have a bad time.

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Considering the work that goes into blogging – the research, the writing, the promotion – the shelf life of the average blog post is quite disconcerting. One day it’s all front page of the website and social sharing, and the next, forgotten.

Naturally some types of posts stick around longer than others. News, for example, is only news for a short window of time and is unlikely to hold much relevance a week or so after being published.

Contrastively, blog content that is not tied to a date – “evergreen content“, if you will – can remain relevant and attract visits for months or years after being published. In such instances it’s important to ensure the content is as relevant for new users, as it was for old.

Here are some quick tips for identifying your best performing blog posts from way back when, and for optimising them for new users.

Identify top performing posts

Start by firing up Google Analytics and heading to the All Pages report. Use the search box to filter out any non-blog pages, and set the date range to 12 months (or longer, if you feel it necessary).

You’ll now see a list of your blog pages ordered by number of pageviews:

Pageviews report
Pageviews report

The top performer in this instance was published almost 12 months ago, and while visitor numbers fluctuate month to month, they are consistently high enough to warrant further investigation. Note too the average session duration. At over three minutes, this post is evidently interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention, even 12 months on from its original publish date.

Pageviews over past 12 months

To see where visitors to this page are coming from, you can add a secondary ‘Source / Medium’ dimension to the page report:

Report with secondary dimension applied
Report with secondary dimension applied

This report shows over 90% of visits to this page come via Google organic search, which would suggest the post has maintained some pretty solid SERP visibility over the past year.

Tip: To find out exactly which search queries are driving  visits to this page, head over to Google Search Console (that’s GWT to you and me) and fire up the Search Analytics report.

Review and update posts where necessary

Having identified some old blog posts that still attract a decent number of visits, it’s time to review the content to ensure it’s relevant for new users.

Here’s a list of things to check:

  • Content accuracy: Check the accuracy of statistics, facts and references and update them if necessary.
  • Links: Do they still work? Is the destination url still relevant?
  • Call to action (CTA): What is it exactly you want people to do once they’ve read your post? Subscribe? Share? Something else? Whatever it is make sure it’s obvious and in line with your most recent objectives.
  • Media: Review the relevancy images, videos, audio etc.
  • Screenshots: If the post contains screenshots of an old piece of software, for example, consider updating the images to reflect the most recent version
  • Layout / formatting: If your site has undergone a redesign or theme update since publishing the post then there’s a chance the layout or formatting could have been affected.  If the content is looking kinda funky, it pays to spend a bit of time making it look nice again.

When making significant changes to written content you might consider adding an ‘Editor’s note’ to the top or bottom of the post, including details of the changes, and the date you made them. This can also be a good way of reassuring readers that the post is a reliable and up to date resource.

Finally, test things like plugins, apps or anything else that’s reliant on a third party. These things can stop working if not updated, so check that they are working as intended.

Heading & meta

The heading of the post itself is always worth reviewing, particularly if it contains a date/year. For example, “Something about a thing in 2013” may deter potential new visitors from clicking as they’ll assume the content is out of date.

If this is the case then changing it to “Something about a thing in 2015” might be more appropriate.

A word of warning though; if you must update the heading make sure it does not change the url. If you change the url then all your hard work has gone to waste as Google will treat the post as a brand new one – bye bye, sweet SERP visibility.

The same reviewing policy also applies to the title and description; if there is any way of improving the descriptive copy within these elements to be more relevant to new users, then do it.

Once you’re happy the post is up to date and fully awesome for those new visitors, save your changes and go about promoting the backside off of it.

With so much emphasis on new content, it can be easy to forget about the great stuff you’re already sitting on. By following the advice above and reviewing old blog posts regularly, you’ll improve things for your users a great deal.

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